Page 1554 - Week 05 - Thursday, 7 April 2005
To begin with, the swimming pool example does not apply. The legislation as amended will still allow for social impact assessment in relation to new licences, additional licences or relocation of the licence to another licensed facility. So we are really only talking about a change of ownership of an existing establishment.
In my past life I have been down the road of club amalgamation, and it is not as simple as it looks from the outside. There is usually at least one bank involved with a weather eye open as to exactly how they will try to recover funds they have at stake within the establishment that is struggling. If bureaucratic and administrative processes build up, that is likely to make the transfer of ownership that much more difficult. As I said earlier, there are a number of establishments that people use today that provide facilities within the community that are open today only because they have been able to be transferred into other ownership.
We might not like the idea that club groups have become bigger, but that is a different question. We are interested in making sure that, as with some of the clubs I mentioned that have been on the brink of closure which have been able to be rescued, this happens. Not all of those rescues have necessarily meant huge returns to the club that is amalgamating with them. Quite often they have still represented a marginal business, but some of them have been able to survive because they no longer have to carry layers of management because they are managed remotely from a larger organisation.
I think we ought to be ensuring that that can continue. I think the imposition of a social impact assessment at the time of change is a pretty random way of somehow testing the social impact of particular machines. It is a very random process, where maybe a cyclic process or something else might be a whole lot more relevant. I think that, given that the act will still allow for those statements to be required for new licences, additional licences or relocation, this is a reasonable provision.
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (4.45): As I indicated earlier, the opposition will not be supporting the Greens on this. Indeed I think the Treasurer has made quite a reasonable case in relation to why not. My colleague Mr Mulcahy made an aside to me saying that to do what Dr Foskey seeks is also a very expensive business. He has indicated some previous experience in relation to just how expensive that is.
The fact is that it seems to be unnecessary because there is no change of venue; there is only a change of ownership; and there are no additional machines; so the status quo will remain in the area in which the club is located. I understand Clubs ACT are estimating that, in the next 12 to 36 months, there is likely to be a contraction in the club industry as clubs merge to stay afloat financially. We have seen that.
I am one of those people who do not particularly like seeing club groups getting bigger. Not all of us like that, but it is a sad fact of life in the current economic climate. It would probably be a lot nicer if more of the smaller clubs had survived and provided the unique services they did. Having been involved with a couple myself, it is rather sad to see that change.
One of the problems with what Dr Foskey proposes is the expense. Anything that makes such mergers more difficult is not only not particularly helpful but might also be very disadvantageous. The Treasurer mentioned royals—I was a director there in the 1980s—